Small Eater |

The Many Faces Of Picky-Eaters

Brought to you by Abbott Nutrition

Nearly 1 in 2 Singaporean parents say that their child is a picky-eater*, but what makes a child one? Pediasure presents a 4-part series of tutorials that looks at the different types of picky-eaters to help you identify which one your child may be, because knowing, is half the battle won.



















In the last part of our 4-part tutorial on picky-eaters, we take a look at children who do not have a problem with any given type of food but instead eat very little, and claim to be full after just a few bites. They may not be actually full but claim to be so, mostly because they are easily distracted and more interested in other things like playing.

This can be worrying for you as it is only natural that you are anxious about your child's growth and well-being, especially at a stage when other children seems to be growing fast. Even though small eaters can be quite energetic, their diet quality may suffer due to inadequate nutrient intake from being a small eater.

Every child will feed and grow at his own pace. However, having the right number of servings in the daily diet is important as it will help your child get all the nutrients he needs. With lots of patience and some simple feeding strategies you can help him achieve a healthy and balanced diet.

Let us look at some telltale signs that your child may be a slow eater.

  • Eats very little of his given meals
  • Repeatedly signals that he is not hungry
  • Plays with his food, in a bid to prolong mealtime
  • Needs constant reminder to have another mouthful
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Compromised growth
  • Susceptibility to illness
  • Lower cognitive development
  • Strained parent-child relationship

The Many Faces Of Picky Eaters Series:
Part 1 : The Slow Eater
Part 2 : The Junk Food Lover
Part 3 : The Choosy Eater

*Daniel YT Goh and Anna Jacob. Perception of picky eating among children in Singapore and its impact on caregivers: a questionnaire survey. Asia Pacific Family Medicine 2012; 11:5.




My 4-year-old never eats a full meal. At most, it is usually just 2 - 4 mouthfuls before he claims he is full. Instead, he finds more interest in his toys and gets distracted quite easily.

His average feeding schedule includes just 3 bites of porridge for breakfast, a few pieces of fruit for a snack, 4 spoonfuls of rice for lunch and hardly any dinner.

His weight seems fine at his age, but of late, he is eating even less and I am worried about his overall nutrition. I get especially anxious when I see other children at his age eating so much more and growing faster than him! Are there steps that I can embark on to improve my son's feeding habits?

- Mother: Dewi Joel Chandra
- Son: Shane Hee, 4 years old

Picky eating habits are common in children, and especially in 4-year-olds who are learning to establish how much and what kind of food they like to eat.

Firstly, you need to ensure that there are no medical issues contributing to his picky eating behavior. Plot his height and growth along his centile charts. Observe him in different eating scenarios to see if this pattern of behaviour persists. If he is growing well and has no behavioural issues, then your goal will be to increase the amount as well as the variety of food he eats.

Try some of the following:

  1. Learn to understand your son's hunger signals and allow him to be hungry before meals by avoiding snacks in between
  2. Involve your child in meal selection and preparation
  3. Create a family table for meal times and act as role models
  4. Offer an appropriate portion for him with healthy food that he likes
  5. Avoid distractions while eating, like TV and toys
  6. Set an appropriate duration for him to finish his food

Do seek medical advice should his eating habit not improve, or if he is not growing well.

- Dr Lim Kwang Hsien
Consultant Paediatrician,
Kinder Clinic
Mt Alvernia / Parkway East Hospital
This comments given by the doctor are for educational purposes and not a product recommendation. Readers should consult their own doctors if they have further enquiries.
PED 210413